The dishes you’re used to seeing on houses—you know, the ones that make it look like the homeowner is operating a space observatory—may be on the way out. Researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio have developed a cellular reflectarray antenna (CRA) with a flat design that is easy to install and offers better reception because it is less prone to interference from wind.
The word “cellular” refers to the geography of the CRA’s operation. It receives satellite signals from within a specified geographic area measuring about 1,500 square miles. Unlike the complexities of properly aiming a traditional satellite dish, the CRA simply needs to be pointed at magnetic north. Since north is easy to find with a simple compass, consumers can set up the antenna themselves without the need for a service visit.
The cellular nature of the CRA offers inherent security. It simply will not operate beyond its designated cell space, which helps deter piracy of subscription satellite services.
Designers can choose materials that allow the antenna to both receive and transmit signals, which is useful in first-responder or military applications. NASA’s CRA also could be used as backup communication for large events, such as conferences, concerts, and sporting events.
Companies can license this proven technology from NASA, putting themselves on the cutting edge of next-generation satellite communication systems.
–By Doug Foster